Review of The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

The only good bit of CGI takes almost 2 hours to show up

The only good bit of CGI takes almost 2 hours to show up

As part of my self-proclaimed quest to fill my blog with out of date movie reviews I spent Good Friday watching The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug.

As a fan of Tolkein and Peter Jackson movies this should have been perfect for me. I came into this film really wanting to have a good time.

Rarely have I been so let down.

The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug continues the unexpected adventures of Bilbo Baggins’ and the band of dwarves as they trek to the Lonely Mountain to kill a dragon and allow the dwarf King Thorin to reclaim his ancestral throne.

Also thrown in are numerous side plots that add to an already super-long film. Some like Gandalf uncovering the return of Sauron are mildly interesting but poorly executed. Others like the pointless romance between the new for the film female elf warrior Tauriel and random dwarf number five, Kili, are just thuddingly boring.

Much of the talk I heard about the Hobbit 2 focused about how long the film is and what a travesty the introduction of the female elf Tauriel and return of Legolas was. For me these lines of attack don’t represent the main problem with the film.

I will deal with the Tauriel character first. Tolkein’s book are sausage parties. Given the times in which they were written and the fact that they were designed to be myths this doesn’t really bother me. I don’t see them as a sexist symbol that needs to be expunged from history. On the other hand I don’t have a problem with bringing female characters into the story if you want to change this.

The thing to do then would have been to make some of the characters such as the essentially interchangeable dwarves female. And/Or make the Bard character female. And/Or the Azul character female. And/Or make Steven Fry’s character female.

What an already long film absolutely didn’t need was for Jackson to shoehorn in

I'm going to leave the stupid reappearance of Legolas well alone. It's super stupid though

I’m going to leave the stupid reappearance of Legolas well alone. It’s super stupid though

another character with a fairly major subplot. Doubly so when the subplot is a bizarre elf-dwarf love story that nobody outside of the more exotic shadows of the internet was asking for.

The second point that many people focused on was the length of the movie. It is long and this is bad. It is not bad because, of length however. It is bad because the story is dull. If Jackson wanted to write a prequel to the Lords of the Rings by including stuff from the book appendixes then I do think there could have been an interesting story here.

It would have involved being more adventurous with the outline of the Hobbit though and changing things around more rather then just telling the appendixes alongside of Bilbo’s main tale.

For me the film has two main interlinked problems. Firstly, everything is CGI. There were barely any real sets for this film. As such unlike in Lords of the Rings none of the landscapes are impressive and the action scenes look like video game trailers that have been directed by George Lucas. You try to focus on the main action but it is slightly blurry and there are five different things happening in the background.

The worse bit of the film was the river barrel fight. Everything was CGI save for a couple of split second close up shots of the rapids which were actually real. The switch between computer world and the real world would have been bad in a student film. For a director of Jackson’s talent to do it is inexcusable.

The second problem is that the special effects make you realise how fake the characters are. Just as they don’t look real on the screen you realise that you don’t care about any of them anyway. Smaug could incinerate them all to dust and I would not have been bothered at all. In fact I would have cheered.

Even the good bits of the film just remind you of how bad the film is. For example, intermingled with the dull CGI fight scenes were a few really cool kills that just reminded you that yes Peter Jackson is directing and that he can direct good action packed fight scenes.

The stand out bit of the film is the third act arrival of the Benedict Cumberbath voiced Smaug. Smaug is genuinely menacing and looks fantastic. The film takes two hours to introduce Smaug and by that time it is too little too late. Plus the brilliance of teh Smaug CGI just reminds you of how bad the rest of the CGI was. I can only presume that the CGI for the dragon took so long that there was no time to CGI in the rest of the film properly.

I really wanted to enjoy the Hobbit but I just couldn’t. Bad CGI, poor plot and dull characters are the stuff of movie poison and The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug is a big fat cyanide pill.

 

Review and Thoughts on and from Man of Steel

Even the actors were yawning (understandable but you still need to put your hand over your mouth Mr Shannon)

Even the actors were yawning or in pain (understandable but you still need to put your hand over your mouth Mr Shannon)

I ummmed and aaahhhed about bothering to write about this. After all Man of Steel (MofS) was out some time ago and so a review of it is hardly prescient to the wider world. Plus there will be around 1/2 a trillion million billion reviews on the film out there so fresh ground would be hard to hoe.

Ultimately though I have decided to write about MofS because, I have some strong opinions about the the film.  I have strong opinions on the character Superman and I think this film is an interesting comparison to other Superhero/comicbook movies. Plus I only watched MofS for the first time yesterday.

So cards on the table time I am not a big Superman fan. I never really read comics growing up but I sure as hell watched a lot of cartoons. Spiderman, X-men, Batman, assorted other marvel/DC comic characters. I had enough of a background to make an informed decision of whether I liked Superman or not. I did not like Superman.

I have always found Superman an incredibly boring character. In the parlance of modern video games he is too OP. Superman is indestructible. He is super strong, super fast, can fly, deflect bullets and is just generally a God. There is no threat of him being defeated because, he can’t be. I don’t find him an accessible or interesting character.

Look its Superman (well it might as well be)

Look its Superman (well it might as well be)

Even in MofS where Superman is facing other Kryptonians and he might be beatable there is still no interest. This is because, I don’t care about Superman. In MofS Superman is to charisma as off white paint is to colourful. He is just dull and nothing is done to make him a likeable character. The script may be partially to blame for this but I feel confident in calling it Henry Cavill is an awful actor.

Cavill clearly got the role because, he looked like Superman. A fact which was confirmed in his interview on the Graham Norton show.

Beefcake

Beefcake

This interview focused on the kickass exercise regime which Cavill had undergone to look like Superman because, acting is unimportant but Superman’s abs will give the women something to look at. The same goes for every other character in MofS they are all throwaway and I don’t care about any of them.

In particular the addition of Laurence Fishbourne and the other journalists was redundant. All they did was add extra running time to an already over long film.

This was a film of plot point to plot point there was no character development that I found interesting or realistic. Superman saves a school bus. You’d think the parents of the other childrenwould be down on their knees thanking him but they seem vaguely annoyed did they not love their children?

This was supposed to fit into the idea of how would humanity would deal with the emergence/discovery of a powerful alien living amongst them? I seem to remember Slumberman commenting about the idea that my earth-dad thought I would need to hide myself as humanity wasn’t ready for me but bio-dad wanted me to save humanity/ act like an example to others. This could have been an interesting idea to explore. It never was. I found this especially annoying as by having Superman surrender himself to the human’s there was an opportunity to do this.

Exploring this idea is not an action scene though and as such the idea is quickly dropped. Instead Zac Snyder gives us a bunch of throwaway actions scenes that are dull and forgettable. Although I should say I have no problem with Superman killing Zod. Zod was trying to commit genocide. I don’t know why people seemed to get hung up on this but then as I said I don’t care about the character of Superman.

I was so bored watching it. Although the film did generate some questions and thoughts. Firstly, why does technologically advanced Krypton not have video and instead use weird fluid metal?

Secondly, isn’t Superman’s dad also a bad guy. Zod was defeated in his insurrection attempt and placed in the phantom zone. So by stealing the codex all Superman’s dad was doing was impose his political beliefs that babies made by bonking are better than clones on his entire people. Who gave him the right to decide this for an entire civilization?

Third Superman destroyed a town in Kansas near his farm when fighting Lady Zod. I think the US government would have noticed this and have used it to narrow down where Superman’s earth-mom lived. Why then is Superman so confident at the end that no one could find out where he “hangs his cape”? Oh right he’s stupid.

Fourthly, exactly what did David S Goyer contribute to the writing of the Nolan Batman trilogy?

All those films are so good (compared to MofS even the 3rd Batman looks like a masterpiece) but everything Goyer writes without the Nolan brothers is awful.

That Da Vinci TV show sucked the big one and his credits are filled with awful awful projects like Jumper and Flashforward. How does this guy keep getting work?

Fifthly, what do producers do? How could Nolan allow his name to be attached to MofS. Surely he is rich enough already.

Lastly, how long can the film studio’s keep churning out these CGI laden dull periless films and expect people to keep going to them? Out of all the superhero films over the last decade and a half (!) I would content that only the three Batman films, Spiderman and the first Iron Man film are actually good films. That means that 15 plus superhero films made a lot of money but were at best poor or satisfactory. Of course they still made a lot of money.

So there you have it Superman Man Of Steel 1 out of 5 but a lot of questions.